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Mr. Bryan strikes the keynote on this point when he says : 'A dollar which increases in purchasing power is just as dishonest as a dollar which decreases in purchasing power.' And also that it is a mistake to suppose ‘that we have reached the end of the evil results of the Gold Standard ; we have not reached the end. The injury is a continuing one.'
So many of the advocates of the Gold Standard support it expressly because the appreciation of gold resulting from the exclusion of silver from the currency gives to creditors the advantage of the enhanced value of their incomes, that the fact of individual debtors, and debtor nations, being injured by the rising value of gold can scarcely require further discussion. In reply to arguments urged before the Royal Commission on Gold and Silver, I pointed out, in previous editions of this book, that a community of interests was being created between the wealth-producing classes of this country, foreign nations, and our colonies to protect themselves against the unjust action of the Gold Standard. The selfishness of the arguments by which monometallists have defended, and thus far succeeded in maintaining, our Gold Standard has created a bitter feeling of hostility to this country throughout the silver party in the United States which may at any moment find an echo in our colonies and in the wealth-producing classes at home, and jeopardise the position of this country among the nations of the world. This forms an important thread in the argument of this book.
I have in previous editions treated the Currency Act of 1816 as having purposely intended to establish permanently Lord Liverpool's views in favour of the adoption of the Gold Standard. This is now disputed by Mr. Delmar and other writers. An article in the
Bankers' Magazine' for May 1895 refers to a clause in the Act of 1816 providing that, after a day to be fixed by Proclamation, any person would be allowed to bring silver to be coined in any quantity, subject to four shillings being retained at the mint out of every pound weight as a mint charge, and the above authorities evidently consider the clause to have been intended to provide for silver again being coined as a standard jointly with gold.
Writing in the year 1880, I said of the Act of 1816: 'It was, doubtless, at that time expedient for gold, rather than silver, to be coined ; but nevertheless the mint should have been allowed the right of purchasing silver for coinage whenever it could do so at a fair profit ; as, in fact, it could do at present.'
It appears, according to the opinion of the 'Bankers' Magazine,' that Act did, in fact, contain such a clause as I have always contended ought to have been inserted in it; and, if so, it is not Sir Robert Peel, with the second Lord Liverpool and their colleagues, in 1816, but Mr. Robert Lowe and his colleagues, in 1870, who are responsible for the unprincipled and unjust substitution of the Gold Sovereign for the Pound Sterling. But
I See p 156.
although the Act of 1816 clearly provides for the reopening of the mint at any moment to all comers for the unlimited coinage of silver, it does not expressly provide for the unlimited legal tender of the coin. It authorises the mint to be opened for any quantity of silver to be coined into current silver coins of this Kingdom,' but the unlimited legal tender of these current silver coins seems to be overridden by the clause which confers that privilege on gold only. Whatever its force, the clause ought, however, to have been allowed to stand for whatever the course of events might make it worth. The point is given importance by the Duke of Wellington's views, which I alluded to in the preface to the sixth edition of this book.
The Duke of Wellington's expressed desire to revert to the ancient practice of this country by making silver as well as gold a legal tender for large sums' was alluded to by me as showing that he had in view the repealing of Sir Robert Peel's Act of 1816.
It now appears, however, to be considered by the foregoing authorities that the repeal of that Act was not wanted for his purpose.
All that was necessary, according to their view of the intention of the Act, was for the Crown to re-open the mint to silver by Royal Proclamation under the clause contained in the Act for that purpose, which continued in force until the year 1870. Though it might be urged by opponents that the right to re-open to unlimited coinage did not imply the unlimited legal tender of the coinage, nevertheless, if supported by
good reasons for re-opening the mint, the Government of the day could well have relied on getting a Bill of Indemnity for re-opening under a decree of unlimited coinage and tender. Such a decree could better have been issued in 1873, supported by the views above recorded of Wellington, the intimate colleague of Peel, with the above-mentioned clause of the Act of 1816 in force than after its cancellation. By tampering with that clause Mr. Lowe and his colleagues tied the hands of future Governments against acting in the emergency for which Sir Robert Peel appears to have perhaps intended expressly to provide.
I have, on page 35, pointed out that Lord Liverpool made the mistake of supposing that if any charge were made by the mint for the cost of coining, the weight of the coins would have to be diminished to pay the charge. And this is, in fact, the inanner in which the Act of 1816 orders the charge to be made, in case of the mint being re-opened to the public for the unlimited coinage of silver. I have commented on this as one of the subordinate errors of Lord Liverpool showing that he had no true grasp of the principles involved in this currency question. It was quite right that coins of reduced weight should be given to cover the mint charge on coins limited to use as small change, but I contend that on unlimited coinage for full legal tender the mint charge ought properly to be collected by giving a reduced number of coins of full weight: If 45., 10., 20., or 30s. is to be retained by the mint as a charge for each
pound weight of silver coined, this should be collected by returning to the person who presents the silver for coinage only 58s., 525., 425., or 325. in coins of full weight. No change in the weight of the coin is necessary for the purpose of making the mint charge.
No doubt the second Lord Liverpool, who was Prime Minister when the Currency Act of 1816, then known as 'Peel's Act,' was passed, may have desired to establish permanently the views expressed in the letter addressed by the first Lord Liverpool to the King, in favour of the Sole Gold Standard and free coinage of unlimited legal tender coins. But a compromise appears to have been effected on both points by leaving it to the Crown to re-open the mint at any time for the unlimited coinage of silver, and by ordering a mint charge to be collected on any such unlimited coinage, as urgently advocated some time previously by Adam Smith, whose views were disregarded by the first Lord Liverpool. Though Adam Smith advocated a charge, I do not know that he ever discussed the form in which it ought to be collected.
As regards the Act of 1870, the fact seems to be that Mr. Lowe, afterwards Lord Sherbrooke, in drafting that Act, was probably acting deliberately on the suggestion of the Paris Conference of 1867, and it may be that the great majority of the Lords and Commons did not understand what was being effected by the Act, and that her Majesty signed away one of her royal prerogatives entrusted to the Crown for the purpose of